For a little while, it looked like we might have a night where the loss of Javy Baez, which could extend through the rest of the regular season, wasn’t going to sting on the field.
Addison Russell, a talented defender at his best, was holding down shortstop, and had given the Cubs their first run with a solo homer. Maybe his presence as the new starting shortstop would not be a story for a day.
But then the 9th inning happened, with Russell making a nice sliding stop on a hard-hit ball, before flipping one high and wide of first base, allowing what would become the game-winning run to reach base. It was Russell’s third throwing error in three games, and his comments about it after the game left a lot to be desired.
Dude, you’re 3.5 games out with three weeks to play – the time for learning experiences was years ago:
Addison Russell on his errant throw in the 9th inning of Saturday's game: pic.twitter.com/BzwS5zp6Pz
— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) September 8, 2019
Whatever, at this point. Russell is pretty terrible at expressing himself in these situations, as we’ve seen time and again, so you just shake your head and get back to thinking about the baseball realities, I guess.
About those realities: Russell is the guy at shortstop for the Cubs, probably for the rest of the way. Hopefully he gets his throws under control quickly, and can at least be only a slightly downgrade defensively. Russell was an elite defensive shortstop only a short while ago, so it can come back for him – though I get sad when I think about Baez being named the best defensive player in all of baseball in August. It hurts to lose that guy no matter who takes his place.
As for his bat, Russell is not going to suddenly break out and approximate what Baez can be at the plate at his best, but it’s possible Russell could be close enough to average at the plate to not be a huge step down from what Baez was doing the last three and a half months. For example:
There is no question that the step down from Javy Baez to Addison Russell at shortstop will be felt in the field and at the plate. Best you can hope for is only slight steps down. Here's both of them at the plate since May 25, for what it's worth: pic.twitter.com/sueCjbRY4r
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) September 8, 2019
It is within the range of normal variance that you could see a 100 or better wRC+ from Russell the rest of the way, and would have seen something less than that from Baez. It’s possible. You’re not crazy for hoping it happens to play out that way.
But still, you’re not crazy for also hoping for some miracle from the hand specialist tomorrow. It’s painful to see Javy Baez go down, and it only makes it worse to read his teammates’ and manager’s comments about the loss. Among them (Cubs.com):
- “He does amazing things and he makes plays and he energizes us on the field,” Anthony Rizzo said. “As professionals, we have to step up. Obviously, you’re [losing] an All-Star on and off the field, perennial MVP candidate, so it’s not easy. But, we can’t just hang our heads. We’ve got to play.”
- “It’s really unfortunate. Javy’s the heart of this team,” Willson Contreras said. “We’re going to miss him a lot, but like somebody said, ‘One steps out, one steps in.’ Of course, we’re going to miss him and hopefully he recovers really soon.”
- “It’s hard losing a guy of his charisma also,” Joe Maddon said. “There’s all that. The things that he does to pick us up when things aren’t going well – the stolen base, the extraordinary slide, the [big] play, the home run — the things that Javy does, we’re just going to have to find that in other areas.”
The on-field step down from Baez to Russell at shortstop will almost certainly be felt, even as we can hope it won’t be severe. But the loss of Baez’s magic? His extra? No one can replace that.